STAY AWAY FROM SECURITY MATTERS – MZUTHINI
MBABANE – Mzuthini Ntshangase, Commissioner of His Majesty’s Correctional Services (HMCS) has told the media to stay away from security matters.
Ntshangase was questioned following claims by human rights activists who criticised the Correctional Services Department for putting Editor of The Nation Magazine Bheki Makhubu and human rights Lawyer Thulani Maseko in keg irons.
The Commissioner of HMCS, when questioned on why convict Celani ‘Maponi’ Ngubane participated in a crime prevention exercise without shackles, told this reporter that this publication should stay away from security matter.
Ngubane is serving a 60-year sentence for armed robberies, housebreaking and theft, and murder.
“Angsibendzeli iTimes mina (I don’t work for the Times). We decide on matters of security. Stay away from security matters, period!” he said before ending the interview.
In his prime, Ngubane would disguise himself as a female by wearing dresses and weaves to evade arrest as police officers combed kaKhoza location and the surrounding forests in search for him and his gang whose crime wave gripped the nation at the time.
Ngubane, who was convicted of murder, armed robberies, housebreaking and theft , has been making public appearances without leg irons in schools in which, alongside other convicts, they told pupils about their life of crime and that it does not pay.
In a community service exercise, Ngubane declared that he was a Christian and informed pupils that he was demon-possessed when he committed the aforementioned crimes. He visited schools to warn pupils to steer clear of crime, countrywide, as part of a community outreach programme.
Ntshangase, in yesterday’s publication, had said suspects were made to wear leg irons for security reasons.
He had said for security reasons, HMCS could not publicly discuss why some suspects were put in shackles.
On the case of the duo of Makhubu and Maseko, Ntshangase had said HMCS considered each case differently, and used their discretion whether to use handcuffs or leg irons.
“I know you are asking about the recent case. Sometimes it is to allow the people to use their hands to hug their relatives,” he said.
He also said they treated each case differently, and looked at the suspect’s situation.
The duo was in leg irons during their High Court appearances which the Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) believed was an action they understood was meant for hardened criminals.
On the other hand, Sipho Gumede of LHR in a previous interview, said they (Lawyers for Human Rights) did not approve of the treatment received by Makhubu and Maseko.
“It is not understandable especially since the institution is now a Correctional facility. There was really no need for them to wear chains and large padlocks. It gives a wrong impression of the country and its Constitution. The fine for their offence is E500, why then have them in shackles for such a crime?” he wondered.
Gumede had also said looking at the character of the suspects, they had no potential to break free and flee.
Civic groups also concurred with Gumede’s statement.
Lomcebo Dlamini of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) said putting the two in leg irons was more degrading than their arrest.
“Maybe it is allowed in the law but generally we did not see the need to have them in leg irons,” she said.
She further said the two were subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment, and it should not be done unless the suspect was violent and needed restraint.
She said the duo was still innocent until proven guilty, and they should not have been subjected to such treatment.
Vincent Ncongwane of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) had also said the leg irons were excessive.
“The law which allows for this to happen should be visible to everyone. If people are put in leg irons for such a crime, then what happens to a murderer, does it mean they will shackle his arms and legs?” Ncongwane wondered.
Nkosinathi Manzini, Secretary General of the Law Society, said they did not know what criteria was used as this was usually seen on hardened criminals.
He said they did not know the policies and regulations used in this case. “If the policy says every prisoner should be shackled, then we understand. But if they use discretion, it raises a question why these people who are not hardened criminals are given such treatment?” Manzini asked.
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